Nestled in a sector of the town of Koza (now called Okinawa City) was a district which boasted the finest clothing shops, shoe stores and other shopping places. There was just one little problem though. That section of Koza was known as "The Bush!"
How do I put this delicately? Hmmm.... I don't! Keeping in mind that the time was the early 1970's. The place was a small island in turmoil. The people of Okinawa, since the mid-1940's were accustomed to doing things our way - the American way! I didn't say it was the best way, or even the right way - but it was our way.
If my dear reader will think back to the early 70's - assuming that you were even born before then - you can recall that there was still a lot of dissention and discrimination between blacks and whites. And, believe me, it worked both ways back then! Being a white guy, I was deprived of the opportunity to check out those shops and clubs. Why? Because they were in The Bush!
So, you're wondering to yourself, "What the hell is this "Bush" thing?" Right? Not every member of the United States armed forces wanted to be in the service of their country. Vietnam was still in full swing when The Bush came into its own. There were a lot of "active duty" service members who weren't, shall we say, exactly where they were supposed to be. Now, if you were AWOL, wouldn't you want to be somewhere where no one's going to come after you? Wouldn't it be great if there was a place in a nearby country where even the military establishment wouldn't admit to harboring "escapees" from the war? You see, if the military were to acknowledge that such a place existed then they'd be obligated to do something about it.
Well, such a place did exist. Right there on Okinawa - a relative stone's throw from the Vietnamese "conflict." A guy could sneak away to, say, the Philippines and from there find his way to Okinawa. So, right there, right under our noses was such a place. Hidden away in the heart of Koza.... The Bush!
One further consideration: if you were absent without leave - and black - The Bush would be the place to be! White boys weren't invited, weren't tolerated - hell, if they went in there, they'd be lucky to come out with their lives!
On one occasion I had the unpleasant opportunity to attend to a couple of guys - friends - who
had had a misadventure in The Bush. One was black; the other white. They were indeed friends
and had planned a day of shopping. The black friend had assured the white friend that there'd
be no problem shopping in The Bush as long as he, the white, stayed with him, the black. So, off
they went. While traversing Koza's secret sector a group of blacks, from across the street,
raised their fists in "Power to the People" style - expecting the sign to be returned by their
errant brother. When the black friend failed to return the "salute" the group fell upon the pair
and beat them.... severely! The white guy was damned near killed and the black guy lost sight
in the eye that had been beaten right out of its socket!
So, that was the way it went in The
Bush. Seems the Okinawan shop keepers and club owners didn't mind. American dollars (and who
knows what else) were flowing into their closed economy and there wasn't anyone to run any
effective interference on the operation. The Japanese police were new to the island.
The American military police were still the force to be reckoned with. Well, if the military
authorities were unwilling to admit that there was a problem then who could expect the RAFP cops
to interfere? What a deal!!|
Another night shift in the Emergency Room. It had been a pretty busy shift. Don Lowd, "Barney" Fife (to this day I can't remember his first name! We all called him Barney) and I were manning the clinic. It amazes me that as I think back on those days, I have no memory of who the doctor on duty was in any of these events. Anyway, the emergency line rang and Don took the call. A request from the RAFP cops for an ambulance to respond to the scene of a pedestrian vs. skoshi cab collision. Skoshi cab was how we fondly referred to Okinawan taxis. Skoshi meant small. Actually, I later learned, skoshi more accurately means a small amount. Chiisai means small in size. The license plate on my li'l Geo Metro says "CHIISAI." The plate on my RX-7 says "RX 4 KIX" (RX..Rx... prescription! Prescription for kicks... get it? *smirk*) and the plate on my crew cab Chevy truck says "BIG SKY 6." Why do I say that now? Hell, I don't know!!
Anyway, we had to respond and while Don was taking more information which he would later radio to us, Barney and I hauled ass! Well, we left anyway.... just how fast could a huge metro ambulance go on those narrow and winding little streets in town? As we left, all we knew was that the call was for Koza. As we headed down Kuter Boulevard toward Gate 2, Don radioed the rest of the information to us. Guess what? We were headed for The Bush!
As we rolled onto the scene we quickly took stock of the situation and the surroundings. Two RAFP patrol cars were stopped in front of a club and, across the street and about a half block down (the "blocks" are small there compared to our blocks here in the States) was a Japanese police cruiser - those dumb Plymouths! There was a large crowd of American and Okinawan party- goers and shop-keepers milling around and two of the RAFP cops were trying their best (perhaps) to control the crowd. Another RAFP cop was hunched down over a guy who was laying on the ground, flailing his arms and shouting. The Japanese policemen - two of them - were comfortably and safely seated in their cruiser with the windows rolled up. For some reason *smirk* they weren't getting out of their vehicle! Go figure!
Our stupid, huge Oldsmobile metro rolled to a stop about 15 feet from the scene and there we sat,
looking at each other, Barney driving and me fiddling with the radio transmitter, then looking
back to the scene. By now there were a number of Americans who were slapping our ambulance and
beckoning for us to render aid! "Hey!! Get the F&%# out here and help m'man!" and "What the &@*k
you waitin' on!?" and so on and so on....
The slapping turned to pounding and we felt our car start to bounce up and down as they rocked
and cajoled us. Barney shot a look at me which negated the need for words. Clearly his expression was saying, "You're the boss, man! What are we gonna do?" The expression on my face most
assuredly was replying, "Hell if I know!" Shooting a look back again at the Japenese police -
they weren't budging. Glancing back to the scene - the victim was still gesturing and verbalizing
his discontent. |
Hmmmm.... lemme think about this..... One Japanese police car with two cops who presumably weren't idiots. Two RAFP patrol cars with at least three (there might have been and probably were four) MPs on scene. The victim conscious and combative. The crowd - uhhmmm... shall we say "rowdy?" I looked at Barney, Barney looked at me. We both looked back out the window at the crowd.... suddenly something harder than a fist struck the windshield and I, being the leader, commanded, "Let's get the &%C# outta here!!!"
Back at the clinic I was busying myself with writing up an "Incident Report" (also known as a cover-your-ass chit) and making the appropriate entry on the shift leader's "Tour of Duty" report . Hey!! I had no problem with this!! We didn't abandon that dude!! We never commited to him in the first place!! And besides, we were always taught that, as medics, it doesn't pay to stick your neck out!! A dead medic can't render very much aid to the wounded! Right?
A short while later a RAFP patrol pulled up to our door. Guess who? The guy had, by now settled down into a semi-conscious ethanol-induced stupor so the RAFPs had simply bundled him into their patrol car and taxied him on in to us. The MOD gave him a going over and didn't find anything apparently wrong with him. But, recognizing that he was well-anesthetized, the doc directed us to keep him in the ER and observe him for the rest of the shift. The rational thinking was that, as the guy came out of anesthesia he might present an entirely different clinical picture. So, we put the siderails up and let the dude crash at Hotel Kadena! I was a bit miffed that the MOD hadn't admitted the guy to the Army hospital just a few miles away then he'd be out of our hair.
As the morning hours slowly crept by, our guest slowly regained consciousness and became increasingly belligerent. Time for the restraints! Snap! Clip! Cinch! No problem! Sweet dreams!!
As it all washed out, the guy did fine and was actually sorta pleasant when we emancipated him just after sun-up!
I remember Don Lowd's car!! I always loved it! An Olds Cutlass! Butternut yellow! Man! What a set o'wheels! And, as I tell my story, Barney's name comes back to me!! Richard! I guess that I, too, would rather be a Barney than a Dick!